Susan Robin Bender
Susan, circa 1986; Age-progression to age 45 (circa 2015); Wesley Shermantine; Loren Herzog
- Missing Since 04/25/1986
- Missing From Modesto, California
- Classification Non-Family Abduction
- Sex Female
- Race Biracial, Hispanic, Native American, White
- Date of Birth 11/27/1970 (52)
- Age 15 years old
- Height and Weight 5'5, 130 pounds
- Clothing/Jewelry Description A light blue skirt with multi-colored dots, a light-colored blouse, a white vest and a gold bracelet.
- Associated Vehicle(s) Full-sized olive-green 1977 Ford van
- Distinguishing Characteristics Multiracial female. Black hair, brown eyes. Susan has freckles. Her ears are pierced. She is of Caucasian, Hispanic and Native American descent.
Details of Disappearance
Susan left her family's home in Modesto, California on April 25, 1986 to stay with friends in Carmel, California. She was last seen at the former Greyhound bus depot on 10th Street and G Street in Modesto, making a phone call. Susan did not board a bus; instead, she was seen entering a full-sized olive-green 1977 Ford van outside of the station during the day. Susan has never been seen again.
Susan's diary, address book and some items of her clothing were located at a suspect's home after she vanished. The person was questioned by investigators, but released due to a lack of evidence.
Wesley Howard Shermantine Jr. and Loren Joseph Herzog, the so-called "Speed Freak Killers," are possible suspects in Susan's case. They were arrested in 2000 and ultimately convicted of murdering several females in the 1980s and 1990s; authorities believe they had as many as fifteen victims. Photographs of both men are posted with this case summary.
Shermantine is on death row. Herzog's sentence was reduced from 78 years to 14 years after the court ruled his confession had been coerced. He was paroled in 2010 and then took his own life in January 2012, after he found out his former partner had begun cooperating with authorities and had offered to reveal the location of victims' bodies in exchange for a payment of $33,000.
Shermantine led investigators to the skeletal remains of Chevelle Wheeler and Cyndi Vanderheiden, who'd been missing since 1985 and 1998 respectively. He also pointed out an abandoned well in Linden, California that contained some 300 human bones and personal items. Shermantine stated the well contained up to twenty victims. He blames Herzog for all the murders and says he only helped with disposing the bodies.
Shermantine and Herzog are being investigated in other missing persons' cases, including Phillip Martin, Michaela Garecht, Sylvia Standly, Gayle Marks and Ruth Leamon. The skeletal remains of victims Kimberly Billy, a 19-year-old who disappeared in 1984, and Joann Hobson, a 16-year-old who disappeared in 1985, were identified, but Susan's body was not found in the well.
Foul play is suspected in Susan's case; it remains unsolved.
- Modesto Police Department 209-572-9551
Updated 5 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated September 2, 2016; age-progression updated.